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Study finds topical pain creams ineffective

The use of topical and compound pain creams has increased “dramatically,” yet the medication’s effectiveness was not proven in a study of 399 pain patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers included pain patients for the government-funded study at the Bethesda, Maryland, hospital between 2015 and 2018. The participants had experienced more than six weeks of pain in specific areas, including face, back, buttocks, neck, abdomen, chest, groin and/or up to two extremities, according to information published on clinicaltrials.gov, which warehouses data on drug studies.

The participants reported pain that was either neuropathic, caused by nerve damage, nociceptive or non-neuropathic, caused by injury to tissue, such as burns or sprains, and “mixed pain,” according to information on the study accessed at the government website.

They were either given pain cream — compounds consisting of four or more ingredients meant to treat pain — or a placebo and were instructed to apply the cream three times a day. Using a method to score pain experiences, researchers reported “no differences were found in the mean reduction in average pain scores between the treatment and control groups for patients with neuropathic pain,” according to the study excerpt in the medical journal.